Plato and the Theme of Justice in His Play 'the Republic'

Topics: Plato, Justice, Philosophy Pages: 6 (2411 words) Published: April 28, 2008
Plato ‘The Republic’
By N.Sutton

A Bit about Plato Himself...
Plato (Greek: Πλάτων, Plátōn, "wide, broad-browed") (428/427 BC – 348/347 BC), was a Classical Greek philosopher, who together with his teacher, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, helped to lay the philosophical foundations of Western culture. Plato was also a mathematician, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the western world. Plato was originally a student of Socrates, and was as much influenced by his thinking as by what he saw as his teacher's unjust death. The exact birth date of Plato is unknown. Based on ancient sources, most modern scholars estimate that he was born in Athens or Aegina between 429 and 423 BC. His father was Ariston. According to a disputed tradition, reported by Diogenes Laertius, Ariston traced his descent from the king of Athens, Codrus, and the king of Messenia, Melanthus. Plato's mother was Perictione, whose family boasted of a relationship with the famous Athenian lawmaker and lyric poet Solon. Perictione was sister of Charmides and niece of Critias, both prominent figures of the Thirty Tyrants, the brief oligarchic regime, which followed on the collapse of Athens at the end of the Peloponnesian war (404-403 b.c.e.). Besides Plato himself, Ariston and Perictione had three other children; these were two sons, Adeimantus and Glaucon, and a daughter Potone, the mother of Speusippus (the nephew and successor of Plato as head of his philosophical Academy). According to the Republic, Adeimantus and Glaucon were older than Plato. Nevertheless, in his Memorabilia, Xenophon presents Glaucon as younger than Plato. (Taken from Wikipedia)

‘The Republic’
The Republic is a Socratic dialogue by Plato, written approximately 360 BC. It is one of the most influential works of philosophy and political theory, and perhaps Plato's best known work, in which he proposes an eternal universe, which is similar to Aristotelianism, yet Platoism differs in the fact that it actively identifies the body with the soul, and it describes the idea as prior to the matter. This soon became the basis of the philosophy of the Latin Christian Churches of the time, due to the support of the creationist theory. So soon, like the pagans before them, they understood Platonic forms to be the thoughts of God. Although in this piece of writing i will primarily focus on the theme of justice in this piece of writing. Definition of justice in ‘The Republic’

Justice ultimately becomes, in Book IV, the action of doing what one ought to do, or of doing what one does best, according to one's class within society. A just society is one in which the organization of the polis, or city-state, mirrors the organization of the tri-partite soul. Thus the three classes in the Athenian polis each correspond to a part of the soul, as the philosophers correspond to the rational part of the soul, the guardians correspond to the passionate part of the soul, and the working-class corresponds to the irrational part of the soul. Thus, for example, a shoe maker could only unjustly act as a guardian or a philosopher - doing anything but making shoes would, for the shoe maker, cause disharmony within society and bar it from mirroring the soul. The three classes, according to their engagement in their particular corresponding part of the soul, thus each have their corresponding proper virtue, as the philosophers have wisdom, the guardians have courage, and the working-class has moderation. However, this determination of virtue is only settled within a conversational narrative of various other proposals for defining virtue. In the first book, two definitions of justice are proposed but deemed inadequate. Returning debts owed, and helping friends while harming enemies are commonsense definitions of justice that, Socrates shows, are inadequate in exceptional situations, and thus lack rigidity...
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